What Does Go Out On A Limb Mean?

To Go Out On a Limb Meaning

Definition: To make a large assumption; to risk one’s safety or comfort in an effort to do something positive.

Origin of To Go Out On a Limb

This idiom most likely developed from the practice of climbing trees, in which the farther away from the trunk (or, in other words, the further out on the limb) that a person went, the more dangerous it was.

This explains why this idiom is associated with various types of risk taking, including risk by assuming something without all the facts or by trying to help another person at one’s own possible detriment.

This expression was first used by as early as the late 1800s.

Examples of To Go Out On a Limb

going on a limb definitionIn this example dialogue, the idiom is used in a conversation to describe making a wild guess.

Ezekiel: Hey, Maggie, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you’re upset about something.

Maggie: How did you know? I thought I was hiding it pretty well.

Ezekiel: You were. It’s just that sometimes when you’re upset you start staring off into the distance, which is what you were doing just a moment ago.

Maggie: You caught me. I am actually upset.

Ezekiel: Do you want to talk about it?

what does went out on a limb meanHere is another example, in which one friend uses the idiom to convince her friend to do her a favor.

Mila: I hope you’ll give me your support in tomorrow’s meeting.

Tyrion: I don’t know. You don’t have a very popular opinion. It will make me look bad if I support you.

Mila: Yes, you might look bad, but you know I’m right. Go out on a limb for once. I need your help.

Tyrion: Fine. But you owe me a favor!

More Examples

In this excerpt, the idiom is used in the context of a sports analyst making a prediction about future games.

  • Now, a year later, I’ll go out on a limb and say the Tigers will be prepared for Howard and very aware of his every move. This time, he won’t rack up more than 50 receiving yards — and he won’t find the end zone. –USA Today

In this excerpt, the idiom describes how chefs don’t want to take a risk on a fad.

  • When opening a second or third store to sell such an item after it has already become popular, timing is critical. Chefs don’t want to go out on a limb if the trend has peaked, but they may not want to make an investment in expansion ahead of the game either. –The Wall Street Journal

Summary

The phrase go out on a limb means to take a risk, usually by making a wild guess or putting oneself in a precarious situation in order to help or support someone else.